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HIMSS, Continua launch Personal Connected Health Alliance

ORLANDO, Fla.—As HIMSS President and CEO hinted at yesterday in his podcast with me, HIMSS today announced the formation of the Personal Connected Health Alliance, in conjunction with the Continua Health Alliance and the HIMSS-owned mHealth Summit.

This short video from HIMSS explains:

Also, Lieber mentioned that HIMSS has not signed on to a letter from 48 organizations—led by CHIME—to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for more time and flexibility in meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements., Lieber said HIMSS declined to sign because the requests were, in his opinion, “very vague.”

Today, the letter, dated Feb. 21, was made public:

February 21, 2014
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

The undersigned organizations write to express immediate concerns confronting our respective members’ ability to comply with the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. We recognize the vital role your department has taken in advancing the adoption of health information technology in the United States and appreciate your willingness to be flexible in extending the start of Stage 3 to 2017. We fear the success of the program is in jeopardy, however, if steps are not taken now to address our shared concerns.

Over the next seven months, more than 5,000 hospitals and 550,000 eligible professionals must adopt the 2014 Edition of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) and meet a higher threshold of Meaningful Use criteria. Failure to do so will not only result in a loss of incentive payments, but also the imposition of significant penalties. With only a fraction of 2011 Edition products currently certified to 2014 Edition standards, it is clear the pace and scope of change have outstripped the ability of vendors to support providers. This inhibits the ability of providers to manage the transition to the 2014 Edition CEHRT and Stage 2 in a safe and orderly manner.

We are concerned this dynamic will cause providers to either abandon the possibility of meeting Meaningful Use criteria in 2014 or be forced to implement a system much more rapidly than would otherwise be the case. The first choice limits the success of the program to achieve widespread adoption of EHR, while the second is highly disruptive to healthcare operations and could jeopardize patient safety. As you know, our members’ number one priority must be to provide safe and high quality care to patients.

Providers need adequate time to learn how to use the newly deployed technology, including examining staff assignments, workflows, and practice processes. If providers move forward, as dictated by the current policy, our concerns regarding rushed implementations are heightened. Furthermore, we believe the “all or nothing” approach – where missing a single objective by even a small amount results in failure for the program year – compounds our concerns.

For these reasons, our organizations strongly recommend that HHS:
1. Extend the timelines providers have to implement 2014 Edition Certified EHR software and meet the Program requirements (Stages 1 and 2) through 2015;
2. Add flexibility in Meaningful Use requirements to permit as many providers as possible to achieve success in the program.

Given that we are well into 2014, immediate attention to these concerns is warranted. This additional time and new flexibility are vitally important to ensure that hospitals and physicians continue moving forward with technology to improve patient care. By making such changes, HHS would be demonstrating needed flexibility to maximize program success, without compromising momentum towards interoperability and care coordination supported by health IT.

We remain committed to the success of the program and look forward to hearing from you on this important matter. Please contact Jeffery Smith, Senior Director of Federal Affairs, CHIME, (jsmith@cio-chime.org) should you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

AMDA-Dedicated to Long Term Care Medicine
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
American Academy of Dermatology Association
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Home Care Medicine
American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
American Academy of Neurology
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Association of Neurological Surgeons / Congress of Neurological Surgeons
American College of Cardiology
American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians
American College of Osteopathic Internists
American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
American College of Physicians
American College of Radiology
American College of Rheumatology
American College of Surgeons
American Health Information Management Association
American Hospital Association
American Medical Association
American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedics
American Osteopathic Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Society for Clinical Pathology
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
American Society for Radiation Oncology
American Society of Anesthesiologists
American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
American Society of Hematology
American Urological Association
America’s Essential Hospitals
Association of American Medical Colleges
Catholic Health Association of the United States
Children’s Hospital Association
College of Healthcare Information Management Executives
Federation of American Hospitals
Heart Rhythm Society
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Medical Group Management Association
National Rural Health Association
North American Spine Society
Premier healthcare alliance
Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions
Society of Thoracic Surgeons
The Endocrine Society
VHA Inc.

Yes, that is kind of vague, but that’s what you get when you involve four dozen organizations. Will it be effective? As I mentioned yesterday, ONC Chief Medical Officer Jacob Reider, M.D., hinted that there will be news about Stage 2 flexibility, likely Thursday morning at a joint ONC-CMS town hall. Reider made that statement at the CIO Forum, hosted by CHIME.

 

 

February 24, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CMS proposes MU2 extension, MU3 start date of 2017

Less than three weeks ago, I reported from the American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium in Washington that officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology were publicly saying it was unlikely there would be a delay to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.

In October, noting that the federal rule-making process can be arduous, former national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari said, “I think folks should assume that the timelines stick.” He was speaking to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives a week after leaving government service.

Today, we find out that they knew something we didn’t. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed extending Stage 2 to 2016 and delaying the start of Stage 3 to 2017.

Per ONC:

Under the revised timeline, Stage 2 will be extended through 2016 and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for those providers that have completed at least two years in Stage 2. The goal of this change is two-fold: first, to allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2; and second, to utilize data from Stage 2 participation to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.

The phased approach to program participation helps providers move from creating information in Stage 1, to exchanging health information in Stage 2, to focusing on improved outcomes in Stage 3. This approach has allowed us to support an aggressive yet smart transition for providers.

 

The delay to Stage 3 was likely. As I exclusively reported in June, ONC’s deputy national coordinator for programs and policy, Judy Murphy, dropped a strong hint that Stage 3 would not start until 2017, saying, “2016 would be a problem.” By pushing back the start of the third stage, we would automatically get an extension to Stage 2, making it a three-year program instead of two.

The start of Stage 2 already had been pushed back a year from the original plan of 2013. From my reading, what CMS is proposing today is not another delay to the beginning of Stage 2. Hospitals that have begun their attestation periods since Oct. 1 may continue and physicians are allowed to start Jan. 1.

CMS said to expect proposed Stage 3 regulations, as well as proposed ONC EHR certification rules for Stage 3, in the fall of 2014.

What strikes me as odd is that this announcement came late on a Friday afternoon. There is no time stamp on the ONC blog post, but CMS’ Travis Broome tweeted this at 4:05 pm EST:

Late Friday is typically when government agencies take steps they don’t want plastered all over the news. I don’t see anything here that is surprising or controversial, and it could be argued that ONC didn’t mislead people with earlier statements because the start dates for Stage 2 are not changing. Did I miss something?

UPDATE: CMS held a webcast about this that started at 1 p.m. EST. That’s still Friday afternoon, but not so late that it looks like they’re trying to bury the news.

 

December 6, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Transcript from Leslie Saxon’s appearance on CNN’s ‘The Next List’

LOS ANGELES—Yesterday, I covered the seventh annual Body Computing Conference at the University of Southern California, hosted by Dr. Leslie Saxon, chief of cardiovascular medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. That got me thinking: Whatever happened to the video from Saxon’s appearance on CNN’s “The Next List” back in March?

I’m pretty sure CNN never actually posted the full video anywhere online, though the network did share a short teaser clip a couple days before the show, hosted by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, first aired. However, I did find a full, albeit unverified, transcript of the episode on CNN’s Web site if you care to imagine what the pictures might look like.

Several of the people who were on the show also appeared at USC yesterday, including AliveCor’s Dr. Dave Albert, Zephyr Technologies CEO Brian Russell, Misfit Wearables CEO Sonny Vu and product designer Stuart Karten, as, of course, did Saxon and her Oscar-winning film producer-brother, Ed. I’ll have more coverage Monday in MobiHealthNews.

In the meantime, here’s Friday’s news about AliveCor earning FDA 510(k) clearance for the universal, Android-compatible version of its smartphone ECG, the newly dubbed AliveCor Heart Monitor. I’ll see you next week at CHIME’s Fall CIO Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz.

October 5, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Podcast: A quick chat with Farzad Mostashari

Friday is the last day on the job for departing national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, who is stepping down after four years with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, including the last two years as head of ONC.

I was in Washington two weeks ago and stopped by the HHS headquarters for ONC’s Consumer Health IT Summit, the opening event of National Health IT Week, and got a few minutes with Mostashari. (I suppose that was good timing, because I imagine the government shutdown that took effect this week would have canceled the summit and even prevented me from entering the Humphrey Building.) I had the recorder rolling for a brief chat, which lasted less than 15 minutes before Mostashari’s handlers ushered him out to his next appointment. But I did get something.

The interview actually goes on a bit longer than what’s on this track, moving on to a discussion about Food and Drug Administration guidance on mobile medical apps. (You can read about that in this story I wrote for MobiHealthNews.) As it turned out, the FDA issued its final recommendations Sept. 23, which also happened to be the same day new HIPAA regulations—modifications called for in the HITECH Act—took effect.

I might get another chance to talk to Mostashari at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives Fall CIO Forum at the end of next week, after he officially leaves government service and is allowed to discuss his future plans and perhaps be more candid about his tenure; CHIME has confirmed to me that he will keep his speaking slot. For now, enjoy this short interview.

Podcast details: Interview with outgoing national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari, Sept. 16, 2013. MP3, stereo, 128 kbps, 7.1 MB. Running time 7:44.
0:00 Why he’s leaving
1:20 Different “tribes” of health IT
2:25 Balancing competing interests and the pace of change
4:30 Difficulty of culture change
5:35 Patient control of data and confusion about HIPAA

 

October 2, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Medical harm explained, in graphics and Farzad style

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Still think the United States has the “best healthcare in the world?” You clearly haven’t been paying attention.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran this excellent commentary from Johns Hopkins surgeon Dr. Marty Makary about how the broken culture of medicine is harming people. An excerpt:

I encountered the disturbing closed-door culture of American medicine on my very first day as a student at one of Harvard Medical School’s prestigious affiliated teaching hospitals. Wearing a new white medical coat that was still creased from its packaging, I walked the halls marveling at the portraits of doctors past and present. On rounds that day, members of my resident team repeatedly referred to one well-known surgeon as “Dr. Hodad.” I hadn’t heard of a surgeon by that name. Finally, I inquired. “Hodad,” it turned out, was a nickname. A fellow student whispered: “It stands for Hands of Death and Destruction.”

Makary went into a discussion of checklists, à la Gawande, and reporting of adverse events. “Nothing makes hospitals shape up more quickly than this kind of public reporting,” he said. Yep, a little shaming can be good for consumers. And shocking.

Now playing in a fairly small number of theaters and available on DVD, on demand and through iTunes is a new movie called “Escape Fire,” which takes its title from the Don Berwick book of the same name. I have not been to see it yet — soon — but the trailer is compelling. So is this graphic, which the movie’s producers are circulating on social media:

 

Still think we don’t have a problem with patient safety in this country? Not only haven’t you been paying attention, you also haven’t heard Dr. Farzad Mostashari tell the heart-wrenching story of accompanying his mother to an emergency department shortly after he joined the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in 2009.

He couldn’t get answers about his mother’s condition from anywhere in the department, and not because the doctors and nurses didn’t want to do the right thing. “The systems are failing them,” Mostashari said Wednesday at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) CIO Forum, where I am now.

Even as a physician, he felt like he would be imposing on the doctors and nurses on duty if he requested to look at his mother’s paper medical record to see what might be wrong. “There was something rude about trying to save my mom’s life by asking to see the chart. That’s messed up,” Mostashari said.

Yes, yes it is. And Mostashari later told me he shared that story for me, because I had told him right before he went on stage about the suffering my dad needlessly suffered in a poorly managed hospital in my dad’s last month of life. Journalists don’t often say this, but thank you, Farzad.

As it turns out, the CIO of the health system that owns the hospital that mistreated my dad is here. I introduced myself and gave a brief synopsis of what happened, in a non-confrontational way. I intend to follow up. The hurt of losing my dad is still fresh, but I feel inspired by the media soapbox I have.

I want to honor my dad’s legacy in a positive way. I want to help this hospital fix its terrible processes and toxic culture so others won’t have to suffer the way he did.

October 18, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Sampling of opinions on meaningful use Stage 2

I’ve been an absentee blogger yet again the last few weeks. Here’s something to chew on while I get caught up, a sampling of all the statements I received regarding the Stage 2 final rules for meaningful use, in the order I received them. Most interesting are what the consumer groups had to say because CMS lowered the threshold for sharing records through a patient portal to a laughable 5 percent of patients, down from the proposed (and almost equally laughable) level of 10 percent. Patients need to speak up and demand access to their own records. Providers need to stop fighting the inevitable.

National Partnership for Women & Families

Leading Consumer Advocate Lauds Stage 2 Meaningful Use Final Rule for Promoting Better Communication Among Doctors, Fewer Medical Errors and Lower Health Costs

Statement of Christine Bechtel, Vice President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“The Stage 2 Final Rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this afternoon is a huge step forward.  It brings us closer to the days when fewer overwhelmed patients and their family caregivers struggle to keep track of tests, diagnoses and medications; beg their doctors to talk to one another; suffer avoidable medical errors; and pay for duplicative and unnecessary care.  The rule issued today offers the promise of better, more efficient care, improved safety and fewer hospital readmissions.

We are pleased that the new rule gives patients the ability to go online and view, download and transmit their health information from the Electronic Health Record (EHR) to secure places of their choosing.  A recent public opinion survey commissioned by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that this kind of feature helps consumers see great value in physicians’ use of EHRs, and helps them have more trust in electronic systems.  The fact that this is now a core requirement, and will apply to the hospital setting as well as to physicians, is key to finally recognizing the critical role patients play as partners in their own care. This is a huge advance that will allow patients to be more actively engaged in their care.  It helps realize the potential of health IT in ways the nation needs.

It is good that the new rule also recognizes the essential role that providers and their staff play in encouraging patients to use this online access.  It does that by holding physicians and hospitals accountable for ensuring that 5 percent of their patient population logs in once during the year.

In addition, enabling patients to download and transmit their health information electronically will help foster more of the kind of information sharing that is desperately needed to facilitate care coordination, improve safety and reduce costs.  Patients play a key role in information sharing, and this rule gives patients the tools they need to do just that.

The rule’s requirements that a summary of care document be sent from one provider to the next for at least one of every two transitions of care or referrals is a good step.  CMS is also requiring 10 percent of those transmissions to be electronic.  And providers will have to show they are capable of sending these documents to providers who have different EHRs.

Improving care coordination and patient engagement through these criteria (information sharing requirements and online access for patients) are cornerstones of building the foundation of interoperability that will support health system reform.  So many new models of care like Accountable Care Organizations and medical homes will crumble without this bedrock foundation.  This is a good day for consumers who urgently need a more efficient, safer, better coordinated health care system.”

Click the links below for:

  1. Interviews with physician leaders who have implemented patient portals (or online access for patients)
  2. A snapshot of the national HIT opinion survey results
  3. A full executive summary of the national HIT opinion survey results

 

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American Health Information Management Association

Meaningful Use Stage 2 Final Rule:

AHIMA Provides Initial Comments on CMS Ruling

 

CHICAGO – Aug. 23, 2012 Today the final rule on the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program Stage 2 Meaningful Use (MU2) was announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This act focuses on incentive payments to eligible professionals, hospitals and critical access hospitals participating in this program that successfully demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.

A full analysis of this complex ruling announced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (ARRA-HITECH) will be forthcoming from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA is the preeminent nonprofit association representing Health Information Management (HIM) professionals on the front lines for implementing the rule.

While AHIMA studies the complete text of the rule and its scope, the following points have been included:

  • Consistent with the proposed regulation, health information technology (HIT) measures will allow for patients to have the ability to view online, download, and transmit their health information within four business days of the information being available.
  • CMS continues to acknowledge and align Clinical Quality Measures with other reporting programs to reduce burden and duplication of efforts.
  • All HIT Menu Set measures have been transitioned to the Core Set of measures with the exception of electronic syndromic surveillance data and advance directives.

 “We are encouraged to see CMS’ continued push toward actively exchanging health information to improve coordination of care thus improving patient safety,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE.  “We are also pleased to learn of CMS’ continued commitment toward engaging patients and families in their healthcare through the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information.  We believe patients must be partners and work side-by-side with their providers to achieve the best possible healthcare outcomes.”

According to Thomas Gordon, the 2014 compliance date CMS provided will enable the industry – providers, hospitals and vendors – the appropriate time to plan and implement the necessary changes.

“As HIM professionals, we are a critical component to the reporting of clinical and HIT quality measures in achieving meaningful use,” said Allison Viola, MBA, RHIA, senior director of federal relations at AHIMA. “We are pleased to see that CMS has heard our calls for increased alignment of quality reporting programs and acknowledgement of making an effort to reduce the reporting burden and duplication of reporting.  We also stand ready to support patients and their ability to have online access to their health information to ensure its privacy, integrity, and timeliness for their continued care.”

Live webinars to discuss the rule’s provisions will be available free for AHIMA members and for $59 for non-members. Visit ahima.org for the schedule and registration information.

###

 

 

Society for Participatory Medicine

Statement of Sarah Krug, president of the Society for Participatory Medicine:

“Although we’re disappointed this final rule does not give patients next-day access to their electronic medical record after they leave the hospital, we believe that on balance the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements go a long ways towards patient empowerment and feature a number of important patient-centered innovations. Patients must be full partners in access to their health information so they can be full partners in their care. For that reason, the Society for Participatory Medicine intends to keep a sharp eye on how the new Meaningful Use rules are actually implemented.”

 

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

HIMSS Statement on Release of Meaningful Use Stage 2 and Standards & Certification Criteria Final Rules

August 24, 2012 – (Washington, DC) – HIMSS appreciates the release of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 and Standards & Certification Criteria final rules by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Stage 2 regulations allow the healthcare community to continue the necessary steps to ensure health information technology will support the transformation of healthcare delivery in the United States.

In our initial review of the Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program–Stage 2 Final Rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, HIMSS has identified several significant policy decisions, including:

  • Setting the Meaningful Use Stage 2 start date as 2014, which will maximize the number of eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals (EHs), and critical access hospitals (CAHs) prepared to meet Stage 2 requirements
  • Allowing a 90-day reporting period in Year 1 of Stage 2, which is consistent with HIMSS’ recommendations on the proposed rule
  • Accepting 2013 as the attestation deadline for EPs, EHs, and CAHs to avoid a Medicare payment adjustment, and allowing for exceptions, including limited availability of information technology
  • Finalizing Clinical Quality Measure submission specifications for EPs, EHs, and CAHs

ONC’s efforts in the Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Record Technology, 2014 Edition  appear to streamline the administrative process of certifying EHR products.  We note that the Final Rule both adopts and concurs with a number of HIMSS recommendations. The HIMSS response to the proposed rule had requested several points of clarity and additional specification around certain criterion, and we commend the government’s thorough review and inclusion of additional information to clarify many topics.

We are assessing impacts of each Final Rule regarding Clinical Quality Measurement, reporting options, standards specifications, and alignment with other federal quality reporting and performance improvement programs.

We look forward to continuing to work with the federal government and our members to ensure that the EHR Incentive Program makes impactful improvements to the quality of healthcare delivery in the United States.

Stay tuned for in-depth analysis on HIMSS’ Meaningful Use OneSource; a webinar series in September; and a full slate of Meaningful Use education and exhibition activities at HIMSS13, including a new Meaningful Use Experience.

MGMA-ACMPE

Statement from Susan Turney, MD, MS, president and CEO of MGMA-ACMPE

“MGMA is pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) responded to our concerns regarding several of the proposed Stage 2 meaningful use requirements. Extending the start for stage 2 until 2014 was a necessary step to permit medical groups sufficient time to implement new software. Permitting group reporting will reduce administrative burden, as will lowering the thresholds for achieving certain measures such as mandatory online access and electronic exchange of summary of care documents. MGMA supports the rule’s expanded list of exclusions and believes it will allow physicians to achieve meaningful use with fewer hurdles.”

 

Health IT Now Coalition

Health IT Now Coalition Expresses Concern over Meaningful Use Stage 2 Final Rule
Stresses clinical exchange measures are insufficient

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued its final rule detailing criteria for Stage 2 of the federal electronic health-record system incentive program. The following should be attributed to Joel White, executive director of the Health IT Now Coalition<http://www.healthitnow.org>:

“While we are encouraged that ONC and CMS have recognized that care coordination cannot be achieved exclusively through directed exchange, the rule still fails to adequately address the core issue of interoperability.  Providers, developers, and state health information exchanges have already adopted and implemented more mature and scalable standards that are functioning well in the market today.

“More could and should have been done to support the interoperability requirements necessary for advanced payment and delivery reforms to operate optimally.  The measures for clinical exchange laid out in the Stage 2 final rule will likely not be sufficient.”

Health IT Now is a coalition to promote the rapid deployment of heath information technology (health IT). Health IT will benefit patients and health care consumers while supporting health practitioners to make smart decisions about patient care and save money. For more information, visit www.healthitnow.org<http://www.healthitnow.org>.

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College of Healthcare Information Management Executives

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) today issued a statement in response to final rules on Stage 2 of the EHR Incentive Payments program, also known as Meaningful Use:

“CHIME applauds efforts made by officials at the Department of Health and Human Services in working diligently to prepare final rules on Stage 2 of the EHR Incentive Payments program,” said CHIME President and CEO Richard A. Correll.

“We commend the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT for seeing the wisdom and practicality of heeding many of CHIME’s recommendations, filed during the spring public comment period. By allowing providers to demonstrate Meaningful Use through a 90-day EHR reporting period for 2014, government rule-makers have ensured greater levels of program success. And by including additional measures to the menu set, providers have a better chance of receiving funds for meeting Stage 2.

“However, we also recognize that these points are conciliatory and that many details may need further clarification. The final rule still puts providers at risk of not demonstrating meaningful use based on measures that are outside their control, such as requiring 5 percent of patients to view, download or transmit their health information during a 3-month period. Some areas of clarification include some of the exclusionary language as well as nuances around health information exchange provisions, clinical quality measures and accessing images through a certified EHR.

“CHIME will continue to delve into this sizable and weighty effort, including the technical specifications and certification criteria,” Correll added.

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September 5, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

HIMSS12 notes

I’ve just returned home from HIMSS12. As usual, it was a grueling week, made more grueling by the fact that I arrived a day earlier than usual. But I do have to say that this was the least stressful HIMSS I have been to in years.

Maybe it’s because the conference layout within the massive Venetian-Palazzo-Sands Expo complex was surprisingly compact for my purposes, and I didn’t have to do as much walking as normal. Maybe it was because I only set foot on the show floor once, thanks, in part, to the announcement of the Stage 2 “meaningful use” proposed rules on Wednesday, which caused me to cancel one vendor meeting (in the exhibit hall) and cut another one (in the media interview room) short so I could knock out my story for InformationWeek. Or maybe it’s because I spent too much time in the casinos. Let’s go with the first two, OK?

HIMSS12 broke all kinds of records, drawing 37,032 attendees, beating last year’s former record of 31,500 by nearly 18 percent. The final exhibitor count was 1,123, also the most ever. After I tweeted the attendance figure, at least one person thought this rapid growth was an indication that the conference was “jumping the shark”:

jumping the shark? RT @: #HIMSS12 draws record 37,032 attendees, crushing last year's mark of 31,500. http://t.co/Mw1TDYSA #HealthIT
@apearson
Aaron Pearson

I have thought in recent years than HIMSS may be becoming too big for its own good. This time around, I heard mixed reviews.

Personally, like I said, it was less stressful than normal. It’s always good to catch up with old friends, particularly my media colleagues. This year, I also met up with a couple of friends from back home who happen to work for vendors. We kept the fun going all the way back to Chicago, since at least three other health IT reporters and a few others I know were on the same flight as me.

I also have to say I had a wonderful time on a “Meet the Bloggers” panel on Wednesday afternoon, where I joined Healthcare Scene capo John Lynn, fellow Healthcare Scene contributor Jennifer Dennard, Carissa Caramanis O’Brien of Aetna and moderator Brian Ahier for some lively dialogue about social media in health IT. I know that at least one audience member took some video, and I’ll link to that once it’s posted.

Later that evening, I saw nearly every one of the same people at Dell’s Healthcare Think Tank dinner, where I participated in a roundtable discussion about health IT with a bunch of supposed experts. It was streamed live, and I believe the video will be archived. Many of the participants, including myself, tweeted about it, using the hashtag #DoMoreHIT. I really am adamant about the public needing to be explained the difference between health insurance and healthcare.

Speaking about misunderstandings, I am in 100 percent agreement with something Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a.k.a. Seattle Mama Doc, said during an engaging presentation Monday at the HIMSS/CHIME CIO Forum. She made the astute observation that there needs to be better distinction between expertise and merely experience when it comes to celebrities being held up as “experts” in healthcare and medicine. Let’s just say that Swanson, as a pediatrician, is no fan of some of the things Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Mehmet Oz have told wide audiences.

There definitely were some people among the 37,000 who were not enamored with the cheerleading at HIMSS. There was talk around the press room that HHS really dropped the ball by not having the meaningful use Stage 2 proposal out a week earlier, before the conference started. In reality, blame the delay on the White House. Every federal rule-making has to be vetted by the bean counters and political operatives in the Office of Management and Budget, and it’s hard to tell how long the OMB review will take once an administrative agency, in this case, HHS, sends the text over.

I admit, I was wrong in expecting the plan to be out earlier, too. Instead, we got the news Wednesday morning and saw the text Thursday morning, forcing thousands of people to scramble to scour the proposed rules.

I know HIMSS had a team at the ready, who dropped everything to read the proposal and get a preliminary analysis out by the end of the day Thursday. Lots of consulting firms did the same. I’ll save some of the commentary I received for another post.

The wireless Internet in the Venetian’s meeting areas was truly terrible. Either that, or I need to replace my aging laptop. I’m thinking both.

I had no trouble getting my e-mail over the Wi-Fi network, but I really couldn’t do anything on the Web unless I was hard-wired to one of the limited number of Ethernet cords in the press room, and those workstations filled up fast. Bandwidth was particularly poor on Thursday, when I presume thousands of people were downloading the Stage 2 PDF. CMS officials said the Federal Register site crashed from the heavy demand, and I’m sure a lot of it came from inside the Venetian and the Sands Expo.

There didn’t seem to be enough attention paid to safety of EHRs, at least according to Dr. Scot Silverstein of the Health Care Renewal blog, who wrote this scathing critique of the sideshow the exhibit hall has become, making Las Vegas perhaps “fitting for people who gamble with people’s lives to make a buck.”

Personally, I thought ONC and CMS took the recent Institute of Medicine report on EHR-related adverse events pretty seriously. Plus, one of the IOM report authors, Dr. David Classen, presented about the study findings at the physician symposium on Monday and again during the main conference.

Mobile may also have gotten a bit of a short shrift, despite the recent launch of mHIMSS and last’s week’s news that HIMSS had taken over the mHealth Summit from the NIH Foundation. The mobile pavilion was relegated to the lower level of the Sands, the area with low ceilings and support pillars every 30 feet or so. (I called that hall “the dungeon.”) I have a feeling you will like Brian Dolan’s commentary in MobiHealthNews next week. I’m still figuring out what I will write for that publication, but I have to say I did hear some positive things about mobile health this week.

I still don’t know what GE and Microsoft are doing with Caradigm, their joint venture in healthcare connectivity and health information exchange that didn’t have a name until a couple of weeks ago. The name and the introductory reception they held Tuesday evening at HIMSS seemed a bit rushed, IMHO. The Web address the venture reserved, www.caradigm.com, currently redirects to a GE page. Other than the fact that Microsoft is shifting its Amalga assets to Caradigm, I’m at a loss.

Popular topics this year were the expected meaningful use and ICD-10, plus the buzzwords of the moment, business analytics and big data. I’d be happy I never hear the word “solution” as a synonym for “product” or “service” again. To me, that represents lazy marketing. Get yourself a thesaurus.

 

February 24, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Hyperbole doesn’t work in health IT

I’m still rather slammed with work, but I might as well take a few minutes to post on a Friday afternoon to call out someone else who’s pumping up the health IT hype beyond reasonable levels.

A publicist for UnitedHealth Group wanted me to attend yesterday and today’s New York eHealth Collaborative Digital Health Conference in New York City. Never mind the fact that I live in Chicago and the invite came in two days ago. To be fair, though, I was offered phone interviews. I declined based on the second paragraph in the e-mail:

This event is the first and only national summit dedicated specifically to advancing the role of health information technology (HIT). Hundreds of leading stakeholders and thought leaders from across the HIT space will gather under the same roof to discuss the latest technologies, achievements and challenges impacting the industry. HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park is the keynote speaker.

This is the first and only national summit dedicated specifically to advancing the role of health information technology, huh? Other than HIMSS, AHIMA, AMIA, AMDIS, CHIME, ANIA-CARING, iHT2, Health Connect Partners, HL7 and a few more, that is absolutely a true statement. Let’s not leave out the dearly departed TEPR, either.

I hope others didn’t fall for that ridiculous statement.

December 2, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

MGMA and CHIME coverage this week

This is going to be a busy week of conferences and travel. I’m currently in Las Vegas for the Medical Group Management Association‘s annual conference. Tuesday night, I fly to San Antonio for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives‘ Fall CIO Forum.

If you want to keep up with my coverage, make sure you check InformationWeek Healthcare, MobiHealthNews and my Twitter feed. I’ll update the blog as time permits. No promises.

October 24, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Reactions to final ACO rule

As you probably heard, CMS today released a 696-page final rule on accountable care organizations. I wrote a piece for InformationWeek Healthcare that should be posted no later than tomorrow morning, so I’m not going to rehash that. What I will do is show you the various reactions from many interest groups to the rule, particularly the ones that have an IT bent. Unfortunately, there haven’t been too many released so far, and none from the major health IT associations. Now, AMIA and CHIME are gearing up for their annual conferences next week and, let’s face it, the rule is 696 pages long, so I’ll update this page as statements come in.

For the official line, see CMS Admnistrator Don Berwick’s commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine. Notably, he mentions EHRs in the very first paragraph, in which he explains how he delivered accountable care as a Harvard pediatrician.

From the private sector, the American Hospital Association liked the flexibility in the final rule, as evidenced by this statement:

STATEMENT ON FINAL ACO RULE

Rich Umbdenstock
President and CEO
American Hospital Association
October 20, 2011

Today’s rules represent the direction in which the hospital field is moving – toward better coordinated patient care across care settings. We commend CMS for listening to the concerns of America’s hospitals. The hospital field is actively working on ways to improve care delivery and the final accountable care organization rule provides hospitals a better path to do so.

In response to the concerns of the AHA and its hospital members, CMS made significant changes to the financial model, provided more flexibility in the assignment of beneficiaries and took a second look at the quality framework. We believe today’s menu of ACO options allows America’s hospitals to create new models of accountable care organizations on which the transformation of health care delivery is so dependent.

The AHA is also encouraged by the historic effort among several federal agencies to achieve the goal of better coordinated care. Specifically the antitrust agencies responded to hospital concerns and reversed their plan to require antitrust preapproval for every ACO applicant and instead provided guidance. We believe removing this barrier was essential to encouraging ACO participation.

Hospital and health system leaders welcome the concept of providing patient care in a more accountable, more coordinated way and know that they will be held increasingly at financial risk in improving outcomes for patients and becoming more efficient in the delivery of services. Hospitals already are engaged in private sector ACO initiatives and the final rule provides an additional avenue for the provision of accountable care.

The AHA strongly supports the goals and principles of the ACO program and delivery system reforms that improve patient care and quality while reducing costs. We will continue to work with CMS and other agencies to remove the substantial legal and regulatory barriers throughout the health care system to clinical integration that still remain.

I understand the American Medical Association had similar impressions, but I haven’t actually seen the AMA’s statement yet. However, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), which stands to lose if expensive diagnostic tests are reduced, was disappointed:

AdvaMed Statement on

Final Accountable Care Organization Regulation

WASHINGTON , D.C. Ann-Marie Lynch, executive vice president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), released the following statement regarding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) final rule on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs):

“AdvaMed is concerned that CMS failed to address key issues in the final ACO rule that would have advanced patient care, ensured patient access to innovative treatments and technologies, and avoided incentives to stint on care.

“We are also concerned the rule does not address the very real danger of slowing the development of new treatments and cures. The failure to consider how innovative products play an important role in improving patient care threatens medical progress for current and future patients. Without certain design elements, the ACO program may have the effect of limiting treatment options and discouraging physicians from adopting new advancements in care.

“CMS failed to include or even discuss common-sense provisions to support continued medical progress, despite concerns expressed by the life science industry, patient groups, and members of Congress. CMS’ action runs counter to the President’s January 18 Executive Order directing agencies issuing regulations to seek to identify ways to promote innovation and undercuts the President’s goal of fostering a ‘national bioeconomy.’

“We are also disappointed that CMS rolled back rather than revamped the quality measures included in the draft rule. The final rule lacks sufficient measures of patient outcomes to assure quality of care. There are large areas of clinical practice not addressed at all – including cancer, severe arthritis, chronic pain and osteoporosis.

“This rule is a missed opportunity to ensure that the sweeping changes in payment policy established by the Affordable Care Act will support medical progress and assure that patients can receive the care most appropriate for their needs.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges was thrilled that med schools won’t be held to the same standards as everyone else:

AAMC Applauds Final ACO Rule Excluding Medical Education Payments

Washington, October 20, 2011AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., issued the following statement today on the Medicare Shared Savings Program “Accountable Care Organizations”(ACO) Final Rule:

“The AAMC is pleased that the ACO final rule excludes indirect medical education payments from the methodology used to assess shared savings under the program.  By not including these policy payments in the historical cost analysis, medical schools and teaching hospitals— institutions that often treat the sickest and most vulnerable patients—have a better opportunity to participate in the ACO initiative.

While we are still examining the details of the final rule, the AAMC has always been supportive of new models of care that put patients first and also leverage the benefits of institutions’ educational and research missions to reign in the unsustainable growth in health care costs.  We look forward to working with our members, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help identify ways to partner with the academic medicine community and institutions working to advance meaningful health system innovation.”

The Campaign for Better Care, a coalition of consumer groups interested in quality care for seniors, called the rule a “reasonable compromise”:

Consumer Groups Say New Accountable Care Organization Rule is a  Reasonable Compromise, Urge All Parties to Get On-Board to Ensure Patients Will Soon Benefit from Better Coordinated,  More Patient-Centered Care

Statement of Campaign for Better Care Leader Debra L. Ness

“The final rule on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today, has provisions that will both please and concern various parties.  As advocates for consumers, particularly for our oldest and sickest patients who urgently need better-coordinated care, we applaud this effort to incentivize better primary care, increase coordination, and share accountability across providers.  We are very pleased that this final rule will require ACOs to adhere to strong patient-centered criteria, use beneficiary experience of care measures to evaluate performance, and ensure full transparency, notification and choice for beneficiaries.  These provisions are all essential to realizing the promise of successful ACOs, which patients in this country are counting on.

This new rule is not perfect, but it provides a path away from the broken, dysfunctional health care system we have today toward a system that offers higher quality, better coordinated and more patient-centered care.

We consider it most unfortunate that the provisions requiring beneficiary participation on ACO boards have been tempered.  We urge the Department to closely monitor these provisions to ensure that consumers and beneficiaries are engaged in the design, governance and assessment of ACOs in their communities.  We will be watching closely to assess whether ACOs operate in the public interest and reflect the needs and perspectives of the communities they serve.  Consumers and patients hope and expect that these provisions will be strengthened down the road if needed.

In the end, we see this rule as a reasonable compromise.  The Department was enormously responsive to the comments that were filed and in particular, to concerns raised by providers.  It is time now for all parties to come together to create successful ACOs that deliver care that is truly patient-centered, that improves quality and care coordination, and that lowers costs.  This new model of care deserves to be tested along with the numerous other innovations that have and will be promoted by the CMS Innovation Center.  Patients and consumers have no time to waste.

The stakes are too high to ignore the promise that ACOs offer to improve care and bring us better value for our health care dollars.  We must not let opponents of reform use any remaining differences to block the progress Americans so urgently need.  Transformation is never easy, but the cost of failure to patients, families and the country is simply too high.”

AARP called the rule a “good first step” in improving quality and lowering Medicare costs:

AARP Statement on New HHS Programs Designed to Improve Coordination and Quality of Patient Care in Medicare

WASHINGTON—AARP Legislative Policy Director David Certner released a statement following today’s announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule introducing two new programs—the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Advance Payment model—to help providers better coordinate patient care and use health care dollars more wisely through accountable care organizations (ACOs). Both programs create incentives for health care providers to work together to treat an individual patient across care settings – including doctors’ offices, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Certner’s statement follows:

“Accountable care organizations have the potential to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care for all patients. By working across the spectrum of providers to ensure that patients get the right care at the right time and in the right setting, accountable care organizations have shown great promise in positively changing the way we deliver care.

“The programs announced today can benefit people in Medicare by encouraging providers to work together to better coordinate patient care, which can lead to fewer hospital readmissions and lower Medicare costs. AARP believes today’s announcement is a good first step and we welcome the chance to further review these programs.”

 

October 20, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.